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In Memoriam Richard Caddel, 13 July 1949-1 April 2003

The links below take you to poems and prose memoirs lower down on this same page, so you can browse from item to item without needing to leave and reload the page.

button Harry Gilonis, Obituary
from The Independent
button Tony Baker, Memoir
from the Northern Review
button David Annwn, poem: Celadon
button Jane Augustine, prose memoir
button Tony Baker, two poems: Poem without end, and Variants before a theme
button David Banks, poem: OE Bread Recipe
button William Corbett, poem: Ric Caddel
button Kelvin Corcoran, prose memoir
button Martin Corless-Smith, poem excerpt: from ‘For the Fallen’, in memoriam Ric Caddel
button Cid Corman, poem
button Robert Creeley, prose memoir, and poem: For Ric, who Loved this World
button Leszek Engelking, Two poems from The Calligraphy Mistress, and Translated from the Polish
button George Evans, prose memoir
button Alec Finlay and others, poem: Writing in the dark ( a nijuin renga in Spring)
button Allen Fisher, poem: Shimmy
button Roy Fisher, prose memoir
button Kathleen Fraser, prose memoir
button Harry Gilonis, poem: [long after the old Welsh of the Canu Taliesin]
button Bill Griffiths, prose memoir
button Harry Guest, poem
button Alan Halsey, poem
button Robert Hampson, prose memoir
button Michael Heller, poem: Visiting briggflats with ric
button Árni Ibsen, poem: Prelude
button Adriaan Jaeggi, poem:
Appointment in Amsterdam
button Pierre Joris, prose:
The Quiet Wit of Richard Caddel
button Laurynas Katkus, prose memoir
button John Kinsella, poem:
In memoriam, Ric Caddel
button Peter Makin, prose memoir
button Anthony Mellors, poem: Get a grip
button Petr Mikeš, poem: the Lord / of the bees
button Billy Mills, poem: three for Ric
button Frances Presley, poem:
The elephant trees
button Patrick Pritchett, poem:
Six Malts and a Knell
button Meredith Quartermain, poem: Tulip glass
button Carl Rakosi, poem:
In Memory of Richard Caddel
button Tom Raworth, poem: The spaghetti tree
button Peter Riley, prose memoir
button John Seed, poem: From Ric Caddel’s back kitchen window
button Gavin Selerie, poem:
Forty-nine comes Clare
button Aidan Semmens, two poems:
— Lamentation
— Upon the death of John Barleycorn
button Robert Sheppard, poem: (haiku for piano
button Peterjon Skelt, collage
button Pete Smith, poem:
What in the world we see
button Jüri Talvet, poem:
Building chairs is science
button Harriet Tarlo, poem: title necessary?
button Paul Taylor, prose memoir
button Lawrence Upton, prose memoir
button Scott Watson, poem: Ghost dance

button Bibliographical Note
button Peter Quartermain, Closing note
button Ric’s Japanese Seal:
illustration and commentary

On a separate page:
button Catherine Walsh, poem: Pomepleat 1

Richard Caddel in 1988, drawn by Lucy Caddel aged 10

Richard Caddel in 1988
drawn by Lucy Caddel aged 10

Harry Gilonis

Obituary Notice

Richard Caddel was a poet and a champion of poetry as publisher, editor, anthologist and organiser. That he was not better known is perhaps due to a predilection for ‘edges’, those areas marginalised by geography, commerce or choice which his friend and fellow poet Jaan Kaplinski called the ‘wandering borders’.
      Caddel was born in 1949 and grew up in Gillingham, in Kent, and went to read Music at Newcastle University, soon adding English and History. Basil Bunting was then the university’s Poetry Fellow, and to one who had, as he later said, ‘started reading and writing poems for the excitement of the physical impact of words joined together’, Bunting’s example, and work, was a revelation. Caddel began to realise a poetry rich enough to mirror the actual world, compositionally complex enough not to need an external music.
      In 1971, the year he graduated, Caddel married Ann Barker and after training as a librarian took up a job at Durham University Library. This was the time of the ‘British Poetry Revival’; the North-East was active in its own right, and Caddel was fundamental. He assisted Connie Pickard in running the Morden Tower reading series; he and Ann started their poetry imprint, Pig Press.
      After some years commuting from Newcastle (his early poetry runs to the rhythm of local trains) the Caddels, with two young children, Tom and Lucy, moved permanently to Durham, where he set up the Colpitts reading series. Pig Press went on to produce many important and beautifully designed books from poets well and less well-known: Tony Baker, Robert Creeley, Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Barry MacSweeney, Carl Rakosi, Colin Simms.
      Caddel quietly displayed a sense of reciprocity towards the poetry community; you are published, so you publish; you read, so you arrange readings – sociably and convivially. Friends and family activities and words find a home in his writing:

the work’s all done         kids
grown up through
all their teeth...

A poetry that in lesser hands might have been merely private or occasional was made able, through the generosity of attention to human detail, to speak in a wider social space. This work is gathered in Sweet Cicely (1983). His next major collection, Uncertain Time (1990), reflects the politics of the 1980s, setting ‘the realm of / false, muddled argument’ against ‘that contact / with the world in which / (for which) / I live /...’, the small delights of ‘voice, steps / little gusts, plants, things // we love in balance’.
      In the late 1980s Caddel took over the library’s European Documentation Centre. This provided opportunities for foreign travel – and meeting local poets, fruitful contacts which led to readings and publications. When Durham University acquired Bunting’s papers, Caddel was instrumental in establishing the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, which promotes academic research and living poetry, hosting readings and lectures by the likes of Robert Creeley and Eric Mottram. With commercial interest in Bunting’s work waning, Caddel’s compilation of Uncollected Poems (1991) was an important piece of rescue archaeology which enabled his editing of Complete Poems (1994).
      An enduring outcome of Caddel’s commitment to contemporary writing is the acclaimed Other: British and Irish Poetry Since 1970, co-edited with Peter Quartermain (1999). A larger readership on both sides of the Atlantic could now encounter a poetry other than that of commercial, ‘high-street’ presses. A broader poetic community was also reached by Caddel’s founding, in 1996, the first e-mail poetry listserv in the UK, ‘British and Irish Poets’, which he co-ordinated for five years.
      In 1995 the Caddels’ lives were radically altered by the accidental death of their son, Tom; away at university, he slipped and fell through an inadequately shielded stairwell. Much of Richard Caddel’s remaining writing was to be coloured by this loss. For the Fallen (1997) is a hundred poems derived from the old Welsh Gododdin, itself a series of elegies for dead sons; Tom becomes one among others, set into ‘highstrung history’. The closing words of Larksong Signal (1997), a book curtailed, are ‘So I / stumble to rest missing you, not twenty’; yet it opens celebrating his daughter Lucy’s vitality: ‘you laugh, / are ardent / in what you do. // I love you / for that, too.’
      In 1999 Richard Caddel was diagnosed with leukaemia. He took early retirement from the library, and he and Ann closed down Pig Press. This was not, however, a retreat but a clearing of the decks; in the next couple of years he was to travel widely, not least to give readings. Translations started to appear – into Czech, Dutch and Estonian – and Magpie Words, a substantial ‘selected’, was published in 2002. Its alphabetical arrangement shows the corpus as if it were a single poem, working through transitions and disjunctures, jumps and flows. ‘Counter’ almost celebrated the white blood cells of his leukaemia: ‘too much / clogging the bee / dance step / stem cell leap...’; it concludes in a
‘signal / towards an unknown’.

— Harry Gilonis

Richard Ivo Caddel, poet, publisher and editor: born Bedford 13 July 1949; staff, Durham University Library 1972-2000, Director, Basil Bunting Poetry Centre 1988-2003; married 1971 Ann Barker (one daughter, and one son deceased); died Durham 1 April 2003.

Reprinted by permission from “The Independent,” Obituaries, 11 April. 2003.

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Tony Baker


[Reprinted, slightly altered, from Bill Griffiths’ Northern Review, April 2003, with permission.]

Richard Caddel, 1972

Photo: Ric Caddel, 1972
Photograph by Ann Caddel

Richard Caddel’s death on 1 April deprives the north-east of one of its most observant and pertinent poets. He was a man whose entire art derived from the generous tenacity with which he held to the everyday business of living well, of living kindly. I doubt whether he ever allowed a word into print that he hadn’t measured against what he understood to be the fullest meanings of what it is to be human, and if in his private correspondence he would naturally adopt tones that were more lightly weighed, the direction of his temperament was always unmistakeable. Considering the draft of a collaboration I was lucky enough to make with him near the end of his life, he wrote reflecting on the snails which figured largely in the text:

well, dang me, I   re-read ’em too, and will stake mah slimetrail on ’em. Having said this, the garden is at present littered with fragmented snailshells as thrush parents teach the younguns the art of fine food... Sat and watched as one young fellow zipped across and popped one before my very. Eh, it’s tough when you support both teams.

This is Ric, not the Richard who would have gone into print, but it’s the same man. Good-humoured, attentive to detail, witty and aware of the vulnerabilities and conflicting currents of sympathies which filled his days and between which he quite deliberately chose to negotiate his terms for things.
      Snails were bound to appeal to him: they move slowly  - as he did, for he rarely enjoyed good health having been handed asthma and a fragile frame at birth — they do all with seeming deliberation and live along the margins of open spaces where their own fragile frames offer protection against most things except brute force. They’re emblematic of that affinity with borders and border creatures that Caddel made a primary political and aesthetic concern in his writing. It’s not by accident that his work has been translated, not into the more likely European languages, but principally into Czech, Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish and Dutch, regions either linguistically enclosed by more dominant tongues or sited on the frontier between an east and a west where local cultures have a long history of vulnerability to distant, dominant forces.
      It’s the same affinity that allowed Caddel to identify with, and make his home in, the north-east; or more specifically that reduced part of the old Northumbria which approaches the Borders — the land extending from Lindisfarne, through the dales and hills as they fall into Cumbria. Born in Bedford in 1949 and brought up in Gillingham, he came to Newcastle as a student in 1968, studied music, english and history, subsequently qualifying as a librarian, and never again left the region. His meeting with Basil Bunting who was the university’s poetry fellow at the time, was perhaps decisive in forging his links with the north east, for Bunting was not only an inspiring teacher whose poetic methods of musical economy were perfectly suited to Caddel’s natural inclinations; he was also a determined champion of what became a central concern in Caddel’s own writing, ‘the local’. If this contact ultimately led to one of Caddel’s most enduring contributions to the north-east — his editions of Bunting’s Uncollected Poems in 1991, Complete Poems in 1993 and his part in the establishment of the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre at Durham, of which he remained a director to his death — Caddel was always wary of too much talk of ‘influence’. He was aware that for the traditions of ‘the local’ to mean anything — and he would have applied this to any version of the local, whether that constructed by his friends and fellow-writers on the European frontiers or that of Lorine Niedecker, whose writing he loved, on the shores of Lake Superior — then it had to be part of  ‘a living, evolving tradition, or it’s nothing’.
      In all he did, Caddel worked from the immediate and local outwards: it was a quite deliberate, almost Confucian resolve — if, as a writer, he could find things to say, he could only say them through the things he lived with and deeply knew: the bees that nested in his chimney, the plants that grew in the crack of a step. Above all, the local was a human notion: it meant the friends and family with whom he shared his life. He married Ann as a young man and she, with their two children, Tom and Lucy, are the single, most strongly-felt and mediating presences in his writing: they are I suspect the epitome of what he would have meant by ‘a living, evolving tradition’ — they were the context in which locality, with all its larger historical and social meanings, acquired human value.
      Caddel was a quiet, decent, determined man who resisted drawing attention to himself; he knew his worth so could be cheerfully self-effacing. When I wrote to him once over a translation which I knew I was barely able to make, suggesting that we work on it ‘without reference to anyone who knows what they’re talking about’ his reply was: ‘what can I say? Finally a job emerges for which you and I can apply with all the qualifications . . .’  But his modesty can’t mask the range and bulk of what he achieved: as a poet he has left a score of collections, culminating in Magpie Words, Selected Poems 1970-2000; as a publisher from the Pig Press that he ran with Ann, he issued dozens of titles from known and lesser known writers over 30 years, all in editions whose design was elegantly tailored to the work in hand; as an editor and anthologist there is his work on Bunting and two major gatherings of contemporary writing, the most recent and comprehensive being Other, British and Irish Poetry since 1970 which he edited with Peter Quartermain; as a co-ordinator, he created the first e-mail poetry listserv in the UK in 1995; as a librarian at Durham University, his negotiating skills led to his role in the European Documentation Centre, which in turn led him to make the many european contacts which enriched his work.
      Negotiation was essential to Caddel: it was as fundamental to his technique as a poet — indeed he once suggested ‘the only thing that’s important is that sense of negotiated space where writer and reader interact’ — as it was to the way he approached his days. His asthma meant that, in a literal sense, his very breath was sometimes negotiated with difficulty, as is evidenced in the way he often lineated his poems. He created by negotiating with experience and would turn it, think about it, model it until it had only the most purposeful, human resonances.
      How hard this must have been in the last years of his life is impossible to guess. His son Tom’s accidental death following a fall from a stairwell while at university was the only  part of his life of which he was willing to admit insuperable regret: from it he nonetheless made one of the most extraordinary contemporary elegies, a reworking — ‘translation’ is hardly the word — of the old Welsh poem Y Goddodin that is itself an elegy for lost sons slain at the battle of Catterick. Even the leukaemia with which he was later diagnosed and which he knew would eventually kill him didn’t deflect him. He clung on to his good humours and simply refused to have his vision distracted from the things he cherished: the darkness of his last years he consciously chose to illuminate with a light heart. Forced to have his arm in plaster following a recent fall which made writing difficult, I wrote to him thinking the cast had been removed, ‘hope deplastered’.  His reply: ‘ sounds like the title of an 18th cent verse epic of anglo-paladianism... the plaster stays on another 2 weeks yet . . .’ He loved life enough not to throw complaints at it. And his concern for those who remain was such that he made every effort to ensure that they knew it. In a rare and very lovely way, he managed a resolution with life that meant that while he would gladly have settled for another fifty years — even those wouldn’t have sufficed to taste all the whiskys he wanted to try — he was able to accept his own mortality. He transformed it into one more affirmation of life.

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David Annwn


— for Ric Caddel

butterfly wing patterns
morpho-genetic fields
boundary conditions
river network
of a retinal nerve
not enough to call
CD rom, room beers
cathedral interview
same, utterly different
over and out, inside in
turn under
pegs and Hokusai shirts on line
back again: blue rook
red postbox splashed white
changing meteorology
underlying bedrock
geology: toys, chaos
oscillations: top-hum
stilled, continues
comes to us in waves
self-weaving tapestry
moss, bee-maze
sweet cicely

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Jane Augustine

Richard Caddel, 1984

Photo: Ric Caddel, 1984
Photograph by Ann Caddel

Many memories come of visits to Durham and Ric’s great kindness to me and my husband, Mike Heller, expressed in the gentle, direct yet unassuming manner that marks Ric’s poems as well.  He generously exerted himself for us, concealing the limitations on his strength, to show us the north country he loved and the sites that moved him.  There’s a photo of him and Ann with Tom and Lucy as children standing on Hadrian’s Wall.  He drove us there so that we could walk where the Romans walked and mingle our history with theirs on the boundary of encounter between the Latin and Anglo-Saxon cultures that gave birth to the English language.  He took us to Briggflatts to the plain low-ceilinged Quaker meetinghouse, in use since 1640, where Basil Bunting’s book lies open on the wide windowsill, inscribed by the poet in gratitude to the Friends and their tradition although he hadn’t joined them.  We stood in the ragged grass in the Quaker cemetery to contemplate Bunting’s half-hidden grave, a kind of stubbornly lasting counterpart to the poet’s book. Another day he took us to a little moss-covered Norman church on a patch of lawn incongruously half-surrounded by new suburban villas.  It was a little, narrow, high-windowed place, only recently rescued from dilapidation, no stained glass or fancy altar, not even pews, just plain wooden chairs.  But a few of these had cushions with new bright beautifully hand-worked needlepoint covers, a sign that someone — one woman at least — is seeing this modest place as important and worthy of attention.  He appreciated these old history-laden sites and their associations, their simplicity and unobtrusive beauty, perhaps as emblems of poetry itself.  Poetry can be seen as an ancient tradition sometimes near dilapidation but clung to in remote places and solitary minds, sustained and influential, the living presence of the past that animates the ongoing world.  So it is with Ric now.

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Tony Baker

poem without end

trame de famille a poster
on the wall for a friend who
makes plaster things and
uses the folds in hankies to cast

breath on cold air of what
I recall like a palimpsest in the grass
our elders walked upon to the last
moment though I think

you would have guessed anyhow
the print shows
through meanings traced wherever
you put them down like

an empty glass, not intending
it yet directly refilling how
it grips the heart still, will
in this too warm April after

such arctic days. The dustmen
jump from the cart on
schedule, or just about, friday,
round the island next and all

the winnowings that follow them,
the chaff of voices of a mid-
afternoon thrown off on the out-  
& on the in-flowing tide of


Variants before a theme

(During his last trip to Japan Ric explained in an e-mail that he had been presented with an ideogrammatic seal of his name which, on checking, I see came out as ‘Clear-singing Light’. My memory has messed with this — what I recalled was ‘Ri   Ka   Deru’  or  ‘clear   song   enlightenment’. )

daylight’s slim lightening
minutes after birdsong had     & this being April
it’s suddenly quite clearly

light paper & stand
well, here  - churchsquare - song
from a lark’s height in clear air

clef     clear   open
the door to singsong dog-a-bone
tuffeau worn light as pretzel-dust

wotcher mate cough to clear
songe d’une nuit d’été
with celery. So that about wraps it up for enlightenment.

( slight hiatus here

‘...& sons:
everything to clear ‘  )

follow the clear
clue-song where

in the dark the kids’ globelight lighting half of Africa

Burghclere : the war
of crosses at song stations & the whitening
sun’s light    spirit’s level

eidos interactive enlighten Lara’s
song across the old Berlin wall’s line on
a postcard--  One clear idea    you : I

light song clear
nicotine stain sounds of the church
clock struck laid on & in the air still

‘...Once at Mamaroneck, said Aunt Fini, Uncle Adelwarth spent all of one afternoon telling me about his time in Japan. But I no longer remember exactly what he told me. Something about paper walls, I think, about archery, and a good deal about evergreen laurel, myrtle and wild camellia. And I remember something about an old hollow camphor tree which supposedly had room for fifteen people inside it, a story of a decapitation, and the call of the japanese cuckoo, said Aunt Fini, her eyes half closed, hototogisu , which he could imitate so well...’ [W.G. Sebald. The Emigrants, Vintage 2002, p. 81]

of a toadnight the clear
perpetual song-chatter
whose fond enlightens
Tallis’ lines gone into an
anthem of shade&light
comme un songe long
clear of hearing’s harbour

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David Banks

OE Bread Recipe

the yeast first      fermented with sugar
as the foam forms      a few minutes wait
a pinch of salt      savours the flour
a little butter      lightens the dough
depending on taste     tap in extras
for example cummin      to create something different
what you do now      is knead for ten minutes
a clean cloth  then covers the dough
which rises when left     lifting the linen
half an hour later      heat the oven
till scorching hot      and slip it in
there it cooks      for three quarters of an hour
home baked bread  butter spread thick


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William Corbett

Ric Caddel

Small gray Ric
not from gravitas
(he loved laughter)
literally gray, poisoned
by a blood disease.
He served poetry.
No one has to
many who say they care
permit themselves shabby
indifferent work
supposing to have thought
to care is enough.
Not Ric, his Pig Press
lived high off the hog.
Modest and kind
the gray of self erasure
Ric knew the great good
of serving well
what you love.
When the golfers kept
us from Durham Castle
he found dorm rooms
for Arden and me.
He’d driven us up
by way of Brigflatts
surprised to find a clock
in the Meeting House
electric, quiet but martial.
In the pine yard
Basil Bunting’s simple
rounded marble stone
Northumberland son like

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Kelvin Corcoran

Ric Caddel

Ric published my book TCL in 1989, this is how I first came to know him.  With typical generosity he went on to involve me in several anthology projects and the first Basil Bunting conference in Durham.

In all my dealings with Ric I found him generous, good humoured and disarmingly modest — rare qualities in the poetry world.  I could have waited to see him go as poet and publisher, several decades in the future might have approached acceptance of his death. Thinking of him as a kind and gentle man, a poet who delighted in the world of the senses and whose thought was always fresh — I remain envious of his good ear — his absence comes too soon.

As Ric said of his own son, with unblinking courage,
‘a bright tight lad
kind to them all
ever our loss
a winner in his words’

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Martin Corless-Smith

from For the Fallen

— in memoriam Ric Caddel

in the



poetry is now parted

shall not be

friend was

old and young

without much noise

there was silence
though certain

to leave



with the day




a song

they were


gray movement


green dawn

like rushes

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Cid Corman


Jasmine — it
brings a bit
of fragrance
to the air.

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Robert Creeley

Ric Caddel

Richard Caddel, 2002

Photo: Ric Caddel, 2002
Photograph by Ann Caddel

It was Ric’s hearing of the world that delighted me, called my own often wandering attention to what there was to be heard and in that way be measure.  It is so hard to get out, as it were, to come into that physical, insistent, reifying place, otherwise and evidently so simply there.  Allen Ginsberg’s early wish ‘to return to the body where [he] was born . . .’ was one I much shared with him, as did we all in spite of the seeming differences.  We were often so desperately ‘minded,’ so much in our so-called heads.  A dear fellow poet as Ric could at least remind us of the physical terms of our art, of how words made a rhythm, how their lengths and pitches could be an enduring fabric.  No wonder he attended to Basil Bunting’s remarkable legacy to British and all poets with such care.  His was an art of very parallel and defining character.

I’ll most remember times I stayed with him and Ann and their sweet family, Tom and Lucy, at their row house at Neville’s Cross at the edge of Durham.  Once we walked into town and took a local train up a ways to the north, where we got off and then hiked back on a modest road through seeming woods, passing at one point a wonderfully bedraggled mansion with real court and impressive if crumbling stonework.  Something began to scream at us harshly, and then we saw it was a peacock, like a displaced king, perched on the battered wall surrounding.  A little later we stopped for a classic tea at a wayside pub and I felt I had entered a bewitched and time-altering world, thanks to these generous friends.

Ric was a compact and concentrated man, not easily distracted if sometimes quietly contesting.  He held on, undaunted, for years — in the pioneering work of his Pig Press and its support of his fellow poets, in his exceptional effort to create and then secure a center for Bunting studies —  in all that he undertook despite his resources were modest, his family defining his most present company, his employment often unintentional drudgery and his colleagues sometimes questioning of all that he, in fact, was.

But through it all he was and remains forever a poet — as clear and melodious a one as the British Isles will likely have for some real time.  I love it that he gave his heart to the North despite it was not where he’d come from.  It was there he found himself, his muse, his voice and his life.  Somewhere in the British Library there must be the actual recording for this bird song, which one finds by ‘searching’ for John Keats, another great listener.  If you have means, scroll down and listen to it now:


For Ric, who Loved this World

The sounds
of his particular

music keep echoing,
stay in the soft

air months after
all’s gone to

grass, to lengthening
shadows, to slanting

sun on shifting water,
to the late light’s edges

through tall trees —
despite the mind’s

still useless,
ponderous despair.

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Leszek Engelking

From translations of Richard Caddel

Two poems from The Calligraphy Mistress
Translated from the Polish


                Go, my songs
                        — Ezra Pound

Go to the city’s heart, my songs,
Go quickly, rogues, and fetch some wine
And make sure that it’s old and rare.
Steal some cakes, some fruit and nuts
And eavesdrop funny anecdotes
And witty jokes and rugby songs
And horror stories full of gore,
These are your themes to sing tonight.
But first bring in Hermione
On tripping little wanton feet.
And don’t pretend you don’t know her —
Her gold-embroidered — Oh! You fools!

*    *    *

In some strange town where I was lost
At once I found the old cafe —
The same lamps, and the same bright lights
Not faded after all those years,
The same arrangements, tables, chairs:
The empire of that nimble girl
( In dremes I held her brestes smal)
Smelling of sex, and cakes and beer
As I’d forseen it long before.
The same town buzz, some August dusk
Ushering in the same old night,
The same dirt upon the glass
Of the same door — but as I pushed
The light died out.

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George Evans

Ric Caddel (Summer 1949–Spring 2003):  In Memoriam

Ric Caddel, 2003

Photo: Ric Caddel, 2003
Photograph by Meredith Quartermain

The event of death often engenders praise and elegies beyond the pale of reality — death is facing us all and we would want the same — but my feelings about Ric Caddel have not changed a whit in over twenty years, and not even my profound sadness over his premature death can cause me to exaggerate them.  In his case, hyperbole is out of the question.  He approached life with a sharp, avuncular eye, always with tolerance and friendship, putting the good face on everything, but less as an optimist than a hopeful realist.  He was an extraordinary, generous human being who helped and encouraged many writers, changing their lives for the better with his presence and attention.  I am one of those, and will miss his voice for the rest of my days.  Richard Caddel:  brilliant and singular poet, consummate family man, dedicated publisher, musician, librarian, naturalist, and irreplaceable friend for all of his many friends.

San Francisco, April 2003

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from Alec Finlay and John Cayley

Writing in the dark

— i.m. Ric Caddel

Writing in the dark
we are with you — overboard
spring flowers at sea

   by the water invisible signs
   graffiti in bloom

salt on the window
a silver spoon rising
touches our lips

   the child asks
   ‘over which shoulder?’

toy boats are left unsupervised
‘these are the rules — no chucking,
in the nettles is out

   ‘and no picking —
   they’re not ripe yet’

cumulus close
fuzzy boundaries — shut your eyes
count to 100

   but slowly

what of this is yours?
mine? I have counted every
rain drop on your face

   September caesura —
   sudden change sends us crashing

in the pink pages
flaring empires
bull markets

   fall: of the blankets bombing
   the cool beds we have to make

there is a limited radius
that we can walk within —
sanctioned light bulb

   emotions are given capital —
   you can see perfectly well

mirrored arrows
landing softly on you —
a crystal blizzard

   crack! From here to there
   measured in a stones’ throw

whatever it was
no regrets — and I seem ...
to ... have forgotten the rest

   I’ve had a skinful
   of songs’ first lines

in the wreck
wreathed in anemones

   the perfumed water.

a nijuin renga in Spring
12 April, 2003
BALTIC: The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

Master poet, John Cayley
Host poets, Ira Lightman, Alec Finlay
Coordinator Mireille Martel
Jorn Ebner
Annabel Newfield
Graeme J. Walker
Aidan Moesby
Alistair Robson
Adam Fish
Fiona Ritchie-Walker
James Johnson-Perkins
Ken Cockburn
Tamsin Grainger
Tracey Tofield
Ian Horn
Mathew Poole
Marie Louise Lightman

Verse Attributions
1- JC; 2 - AFish; 3-FRW; 4 - KC
5 - comp.; 6 - AN; 7 - comp.; 8 - AM; 9 - JC
10 - comp.; 11 - AFin; 12 - IL; 13 - JE
14 -AN; 15 - IL ; 16 - AFin
17 - GJW; 18 - JJP; 19 - comp.; 20 - AN

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Allen Fisher


— for Ric

teeth broke a
sharp block
labelled Quicke
that’s what I call cheese
noted through pursed lips
alerted cameraman
say please

won another whist it
save working for
existing shape the words
to another’s voice
well I never did
if that don’t take
the biscuit

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Roy Fisher

Ric’s mind was settled early and without fuss. I first heard from him when he invited me to give a Colpitts reading soon after he’d started the series, and the undogmatic, uncluttered assurance of his outlook was already apparent.
      For a later visit he produced a flyer with a few of my poems. The cover reproduced an antique line drawing of a group of well-grown, complacent-looking onions. Without being told, he’d gone to my favourite and most appropriate vegetable. I asked him where he’d found the illustration. ‘In a book of onions,’ he said.  And there you had it. He was a man who knew there were books of onions, and that was that.
      As an editor and publisher he treated me perfectly.  He would propose an available space, somehow get me to feel it would be safe for me to occupy it, and then simply clear off.  In this way he was able to generate several pieces of mine which would otherwise never have come about.  And on every occasion he did the decent thing and accepted what I sent, whatever my misgivings might have been.  He’d been gambling too.
      Ric’s arrival in poetry by way of music was a prophylactic against literary yapping and snapping;  it informed his own writing and was an abiding presence.  The last extended conversation I had with him concerned the keyboard eccentricities of  Sviatoslav Richter, Glenn Gould and the late Mr Monk.  On the previous evening I’d been reading for the Bunting centenary and had been leaned on to play a short slow piece, all I could trick past my partially-paralysed right hand.  For this small task, worth a church hall upright at most, he offered me choice of two concert grands:  a biddable Steinway and a monster Bösendorfer.   ‘That one,’ he said, ‘goes off like an express train once you get it started up.’ I chose the Bösendorfer.  Afterwards, I apologised to Lucy Caddel for the absence of decoration in what I’d done. ‘Oh, it was good to hear the basics,’ she said, exercising something stronger than mere tact, and probably hereditary.
      Our last encounter of all was, somehow suitably, quite spectral.  In the autumn of 2001 I was making daily visits, miles from home, to the hospital in Sheffield where my wife Joyce was having the surgery from which she would eventually fail to recover. Her ward shared an entry corridor with its mirror image opposite. Walking out one afternoon and glancing through, I briefly saw silhouetted against a distant window a figure which would have been Ric’s had it not obviously been that of a ward attendant carrying a broom or something similar. Shortly after that I received an email which began: ‘As I shambled — leaning hard on my stick — into Sheffield Northern General Hospital the other day, I saw a figure — also on stick — moving in the opposite direction, which I thought might be yours, but my mind was woolgathering as usual and by the time I’d surfaced you - or your döppelganger - had cornered out of view.’ The Caddels, many more miles from home than I was, were visiting Ann’s mother who was lying a few yards from Joyce in what was also to turn out to be a final illness.  Ric went on to ask:  had I in fact been me?  I had to agree it was a possibility.

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Kathleen Fraser

in momentum: ric caddel

That something so tentative as the love of difficult radiance — a poetic diction, in this instance, the gnarly chewy passion of Basil Bunting’s atonal chords — could bring us to this shy, generous friendship: a few brief letters and poems exchanged, this conversation around the kitchen table in Durham, with Lucy working on her cardboard model of a large water conveyance with prow and oars, meant as prop for her play, and Ann, in the other room, sewing costumes for Durham’s annual theatre event — initiated from the love of words and their events claiming the center  stage of this family.  Ric ever-present but not in the director’s chair, watching, commenting in soft drolleries back & forth with rosey pride in the life energy of these women, his family-minus-one, around him unfolding.  His eyes, alive.
      A little after, reading at the local book store, or was it the amazement of stars so close in this immense tiny place, us sitting on the back steps and watching the fireflies, all of us later walking down the alley to the pub, bringing again into focus the presence of Tom — Ric & Ann’s son, Lucy’s brother — then dead just over a year.  I cannot remember Ric’s precise words that night, neither inside the circle of family light nor outside in the private dark.  Or, rather, I cannot separate his gentle speaking from the unfold of this impossible loss as he tried not so much to make sense of it as to look at it face-on and to find how to begin from that severed limb, to fit himself there: a man whose son was ripped from him like a sudden tear of perfect scarlet silk, never to be mended.
      He must rage, yet sing it with a severe & riveting cadence — invented brilliance of the almost unheard — before the immense gap of the cosmos:  as his elegy for Tom gives way to a poem in-love-with-Ann that springs open to embrace Lucy’s livingness  — each separately unspooled and again contained in how Ric and his words  lodge in us, claiming their essential home and chime: to love, coil, explode and return to that terror gift, the live coal he places in our hands.  

April 26, 2003/ Rome

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Harry Gilonis

in momentum: ric caddel

[long after the old Welsh of the Canu Taliesin, below, right]

Canu Taliesin

conning difference heart
bright as a pronoun
no false praise singing
edging a swift coverlet
you sing page tutor
learn to open a curtain
o vainly coffered stray
offered honeyed singing
at some point aired
call for wine patterned
ardent more than any
sing keening core fact
hateful the seeing
farewell to Caddel
caught light and cogent
son¹s shade by kirkgate
way work husbanded
and smile late allotted
poured lettered knowledge
spoken technical language
tantamount to birdsong
caught crux superlative
while sound mirrored
words heard collided
not strong but confident
home love near a garden
knack of jewelled movement
in fresh terms braiding
last property overthrown
educate deep internet
familiar translation kernel
yes care for emptied nest
pleasanr dust-stook gaffered
endeavour often violet
made ginnelled and ganging
despite chair and committee
allowed candour conversing
caught in mountain bracken
good yarn rattling
learned truant deserving
cornered rocked and gunning
lyric library visitation
eyesore leviathan leeching
perfect song in the morning
reflecting power lying
rain fall on the igloo
everyone speaking in red
prized byte deck burning
clear light in the kenning

22 April 2003

Text, above right: a page of the old Welsh of the Canu Taliesin

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Bill Griffiths

My main impression of Ric is of the sheer volume of effective energy - a full-time job and a family, merged with his pioneering of the Basil Bunting Centre at Durham University, editing Basil’s work, running his own small press (a valued member of the Association of Little Presses), and then his own writing, and compiling anthologies, arranging events and readings. . . Friendly and cheerful as a companion, and serious and reliable as an organiser; with no little effect on the literary shape of the North East and the wider scene.

Now unimaginably withdrawn.

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Harry Guest

Dear Ric,
          Last summer in Japan, your six
responses to a coast you loved conveyed
the salt tang of the North Sea flickering
with puffins to a land you’d seen the year
before, whose clean trains, temples, fabulous
department-stores filled you with awe. I hope
your ears burned at the praise those crisp lines raised
from foreign readers.
                        Poet, rambler, sage,
most generous of publishers, your speech
was spiced with laughter — your quicksilver mind
lit up the silly side of things although
you never once sold short a relish for
out-of-the-way glints of pure scholarship —
Cretaceous flora, contrapuntal song,
Chinese philosophy, Welsh legends.
you were against syllabics! I can’t take
one of your heroes, that New Jersey quack!
Cherished companions, heaven knows, are meant
to differ else concourse would sound so bland.

I have a photograph I treasure: you
in black-and-white and thoughtful as you pay
benign attention to some poet’s voice,
a pint half empty in your hand.
                                                 I wish
I could replenish one for you to-day
and listen to you speak so wisely, shed
doubt over my intolerance and set
us treading on a more exacting path.

You knew great grief and have passed on to us
the need to mourn a jagged gap in life
you’ve left. Maybe, who knows, beyond that blank
no-one can vouch for we can walk again
to Wistman’s Wood and talk as spirits talk.

If now all those who knew your work are sad,
you’re missed far more by those who knew you, those
who had that privilege.
                                    Harry Guest

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Alan Halsey

Dear Ric

Mr Forgetful doesn’t need to cross Lethe
except to bring you those endpapers
blue as the flash on a magpie’s wing.

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Robert Hampson

Ric Caddel: Re-Take the Language

I first came across Ric Caddel some time in the late seventies. Through browsing the shelves of Compendium, I had registered Pig Press, which Ric ran with his wife Ann, as the publisher of well-produced volumes of always interesting poetry. Gael Turnbull, Roy Fisher, Pete Hoida, Eric Mottram, Iain Sinclair, Chris Torrance, Ulli McCarthy ... and, above all, Lee Harwood. Freighters, Old Bosham Bird Watch, All the Wrong Notes with texts by Lee Harwood and Judith Walker’s black-and white photos of Brighton.
      I was particularly pleased, then, when Ric accepted some of my own work for publication. A Feast of Friends was published in 1982, and, thereafter, Ric and I remained (loosely) in contact. I was conscious of how much Ric was doing in the North-East — not only as a publisher but through the Colpitts Hotel readings and later as the Director of the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre — but we only met when Ric was attending events or readings in London. Ric was unfailingly generous and courteous, characteristics which also marked his later curating of the British and Irish Poets e-mail list.
      Ric’s own work I first encountered in Sweet Cicely (Taxus, 1983). The poems had the attention to pace and rhythm and sound in their precise placement on the page that I associated with another musician-poet, Tony Baker:

Free notes, fine wrought
         each part its element

Poems of love and friendship and family, and a concern for precise sensuous rendering:

Where we were in the
        half light sand
                  light curved away
        in the tide
                  fading from
sight        alone

Ric’s collaboration with Lee Harwood in the roman devin, Wine Tales (Galloping Dog Press, 1984), a series of narrative interpretations of wine-bottle labels, displayed another aspect of his character: the wit, intelligence and playfulness that remain part of my sense of Ric.

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Michael Heller

Visiting briggflats with ric

Your car chugging up the pass into snow’s unseasonal bursts, the bright sun shining over our heads, then a plunge down through flurries to Bunting’s grave.

Stone of Quaker plainness, hard as speech, austerity of row upon row, all buried barely above anonymity.

In the meeting house, the old poet’s petition for the congregation’s forgiveness.


Watched you walk among those graves.

Always the short man, elm’s rooted trunk or northern stone pillar.

Always a delicacy in your lines, your speech and person.

Your love of music informed the language, gravity’s surge and mockery, grief-tinged, shaped-cloud, passing thus over landscape.

Ground currents animating a shared earth.

22 April 2003

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Árni Ibsen


To the memory of Richard Caddel

cold mist at the window
fading now the tired light
of a bedside lamp left
burning all night

drifting towards the house
the continent of another
day pushing through
in the wake of morning

the night’s reader makes a dog-ear
on the thumbed page
marvelling at the chill
seeping through absence

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Adriaan Jaeggi

Afspraak in Amsterdam

voor Ric Caddel, 13 juli 1949-1 april 2003)

Dus je komt niet naar Amsterdam
met je eksterwoorden
met je monniks-slakkeliederen

Dus je komt niet naar Amsterdam,
onderschrijver, wilgenminnaar,

Ik heb de uitnodiging herschreven
in het gouden stof op de ramen. Ik werd
weer verliefd op de woorden. Je komst, deze lente
is, eens te meer, onontbeerlijk

De iepen staan glunderend aan de gracht
slungelige bakkersjongens
gezichten vol groene poedersuiker,

Appointment in Amsterdam

for Ric Caddel, 13 July 1949-1 April 2003)

So you’re not coming to Amsterdam
with your magpiewords
with your monksnailsongs

So you’re not coming to Amsterdam,
underwriter, willowlover,

I’ve rewritten the invitation
in the golden dust on the windows. I’ve fallen
in love again with the words. Your coming, this spring
is indispensable again

The elms stand beaming by the canal
gawky baker’s boys
faces full of green icing sugar
                  (translated by Paul Taylor)

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Pierre Joris

The Quiet Wit of Richard Caddel

This piece is 600 words or about two printed pages long.

(My introduction to Ric’s reading at the University at Albany some years back, offered here as tribute to his memory.)

Richard Caddel is an English poet who comes to us from Northumbria where he has been on the library staff of Durham University since 1972. But he is no stuffy librarian, no despiser of jazz, like that famous English poet-librarian from Hull, who shall remain unnamed. To the contrary! Over the years Caddel has been a firebrand poet and reader, a publisher and scholar. In 1973 he and his wife Ann founded Pig Press which over the years has managed to publish, against all economic odds in Thatcherite Britain, an array of younger experimental British poets — a major service to the community of those who think & read. An enthusiast for the live art of poetry, he organized the famous Morden Tower readings in Newcastle for several years, and in 1975 founded the Colpitts Poetry readings series. Friend, admirer & student of the great Northumbrian poet Basil Bunting (1900–1985), he organized the Great Celebration in the latter’s honor in All Saints Church, Newcastle in 1986, & the following year became Secretary of the Basil Bunting Archive at Durham University where he has also been Co-Director of the Bunting Poetry Center since 1989, while editing several of the great Northumbrian modernist’s books, most recently the Complete Poems, published by Oxford University Press in 1994.
      But, lest we forget it, Caddel is before all a poet — and his achievement is major, as a good dozen books will testify. It is clear, sharp & highly focused work, a delight not only for the intelleto, of which there is much, though it is never showy, but also for anyone who appreciates a clear eye for the things in and of the world, their vivid detail, which he will pick out with uncanny accurateness because, as Lee Harwood put it, ‘he has an eye that can discover a small rare flower in the midst of a tangled hedgerow or a wild moor.’ And with the eye comes an ear (both Bunting & Zukofsky come to mind, as the predecessors & teachers) of rare sharpness leading to a strong if sparse and highly controlled music: ‘sing it — // no ideas but in tunes’ as he writes in ‘Larksong Signal.’
      Eric Mottram, England’s finest critic of the new poetries, praised him in these words: ‘A man who watches, listens and perceives, and then enacts this process in a poetics that demonstrates a particular confidence: Richard Caddel now extends his accomplishment to new kinds of counterpointed experience, and into discoveries of how a longer poem becomes necessary to shape his sensibilities... His short songs again hold a perception or an exchange deftly and firmly, and everywhere a quiet wit of how words and measures can at once play and define.’ And Robert Creeley has noted how ‘he cares beyond the casual, stays determined in commitment, and shares with any of us the common fact of our humanity, that we are here, that we can love... that modest yet insistent clarity of sense, and the constant emphasis upon the common term which is somehow never a generalization.’ As an appetizer, then, here is Caddel’s poem ‘Wyatt’s Dream’:

Whose eyes were sleepbound &
whose song stilled
saw a blade a bright beam
cleave the shield.

His love walked from the grave
veiled. Songster, fighter, &
lover stilled.
There in the cave.

Maybe Carl Rakosi is right when he sees Caddel as ‘a kin to Herrick,’ though it seems to me that Wyatt is who Caddel goes back to, again and again, the sharp turn, the music, the accurate placing of syllable after syllable.

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Laurynas Katkus

When Richard Caddel was to come to Druskininkai Poetic Autumn in 1998, Kornelijus Platelis asked me to translate some of his poems. Richard was the first British poet to participate in the Festival, and also first British poet I have translated (before that I had only W.B Yeats and e.e.cummings on my count). I was impressed by the  formal and thematic acomplishmentof his texts; these quiet poems, with words rising as if directly from silence and falling back again into it. In Lithuanian poetry we have quite a lot of good poetry of such kind, so it was a pleasure to translate it. I met Richard only twice. In Druskininkai we came together to discuss the translations; he said he was fascinated by the festival, but especially by the pine forests surrounding Druskininkai. These, he said, he missed in his home city. Later on, in Vilnius we met in a cafe, and he suggested he could translate some of my poems. I had sent him some of my texts, roughly translated into English, and we exchanged a couple of emails. After some time Richard’s e-mail fell silent, but I knew from Kornelijus, that he had fallen seriously ill. Together with the whole Lithuanian community of poets, I feel very sad about the death of this gifted British poet, Richard Caddel.

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John Kinsella

In Memoriam, Ric Caddel

The twist of turf
or meniscus of mud
a laneway, dries

to flakes about hedgerows,
stone clans
and the light
infraction: it’s all infusions

of Bede, Galilee,
and the clasp of cold
on steps, this stone

in returning
it holds as pitfalls
of murmur or madrigal,
a low-slung rush

of water,
carving out town
and field,
a temporary not(at)ion

forms elsewhere a line
strung as milepost,
in alliteration,

to be followed
or lost,
as divinity.

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Peter Makin

Richard Caddel in memoriam

Love, song and flowers: a combination partly out of Zukofsky, who took parts of it from Dante. Words considered as a train of evokers of sharp atmospheres from small collisions (pollen of a flower when you knock it); not as adding to a statement you could (Shut that door! Remember the Alamo!) do anything about. Ric was the finest flower of the gospel of the sacredness of the unique: of its being, not of its being part of a scheme or what is called a metaphysic.
      This being could not be caught in anything less finely organized than a poem. Hence the dedication of a life to fostering poetry.
      This he did with energy and courage; retaining always the essential sense of humanity and of what it is all for.
      It is easy enough to retain this sense if you are a frog by a pond, and never try to get things done. But then it is only verbal.
      What it is all for: that these institutions we set going, or are a part of, in order to get things done, do not exist for themselves, or for their interaction with a lot of other institutions, or people who are parts of them (or would like to be). The whole thing is justified only if it fosters a fullness of being — through poetry, or whatever be the immediate means one has chosen. Ric fought very hard not to let his work be deflected from that aim.

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Anthony Mellors

Get a Grip

...the only recorded function of the psyche in relation to the living man is to leave him.

Nazarite vine, an unstable shore
where the head shaved is the hair
grown, a childhood rule
to come at no dead body, franchise
of the watchtower.  Who drinks
from pulp, cinder and lime, fazed
at dawn.  It dawns, has dawned,
to bury in wardrobe flotsam
grape purple, crying ‘out’ for the garden
returned to in spring.  Far out there
you maintain, you hold on  -  it is the now in the
not now, place rattling in fused eyes  -
the dragon bled into your forearm
a panic crop tricked on bleeps and sighs.
Worn out with knotted breathing
a smithereen of life keeps you there.  
Gamboge fog braces the hubby
grooves of frosted mud,
morning tears into postnoon
drapes:  for the first time but always
under strip lights the sodden shoulder
is brought to the group door, cluster
or party, drunk or purged  -
is of little consequence.  Star of disaster,
the body in its patience is thought already
and all demand is to stay the winds
and revive the dead, fuddled
in a grey Eastern port
where tower and stump are equal.
Whisked from coast to coast
the crumbling separation,
the drumming hush of no sleep.

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Petr Mikeš

The Lord

of the Bees

in memoriam Richard Caddel

It was a rainy day
at Briggflatts.
I wanted desperately
to stand at Basil Bunting’s
But there were bees
flying all over
the cemetery.
And Richard
kindly, as always,
He asked
a Quaker who came,
calmed the bees,
gathered them
and took them away.
And then
I was standing
with Richard
at Basil Bunting’s
Both of us
merged in thoughts.
In silence.

Olomouc, Czech Republic, 6 April 2003

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Billy Mills

three for Ric

— from the Old Irish, roughly

one small bird
whose note’s heard
sharply pointed

whose notes fly
on Loch Laig
blackbird’s branch


bird in the willow sings
clean tones: small bill
            beak yellow: black form
            vivace: birds song


news for you
  stag tongues
winter snows
  summer’s gone

cold gale
  low sun
short course
tide’s run

cold’s caught
  bird’s wing
ice time
  that’s my song

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Frances Presley

The elephant trees

I first met Ric when I was part of North and South press and we published ‘Against Numerology’ in 1987. In the early days of the British and Irish Poets mailing list we were also frequently in contact. We discussed the importance of communities in our lives, including the community of interest with other writers ,which is mainly sustained through correspondence, and occasional meetings at public readings. However, in November 1999 I was in Durham with Elizabeth James and Harry Gilonis.  We were keen to go for a walk and Ric suggested a route of about 8–10 miles along the Weardale Way, and he drove us to the starting point.

Up on the moor the black allotment the black
grouse complaining when we disturbed them
the sky full of small birds a brief and faltering
flap and then glide       they almost seemed to collide

On Ric’s path it was too soon to nightfall        up
the airy mountain down the rushy glen
we daren’t go a-hunting....  where are the little
men?  all gone a-ramraiding        all gone to ribbons

He told us to look for the elephant trees        his
eyes meeting his daughter’s        and we may have
seen trees that looked like horses nuzzling
or ostriches        or         a man with a mobile phone

Down the road a farmer in his van asked if we’d seen a sheep
but we hadn’t          not one   and not so recently only
cows and their calves muzzling to the wire

April 2003

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Patrick Pritchett

Six Malts and a Knell

for Ric Caddel

Something’s done.
No, that’s not right.

But a sudden pause
on Framwellgate Bridge
may give
an unexpected light
we call music
as it passes.

Pour the duty-free
Glenkinchie, the Ardbeg (the peatiest, you said)
the Bruichladdich & Dalwhinnie, the Oban,
knowing nothing is ever
Inhale it
in remembrance of an evening overflowing
with Slieve na gCloc
& the swich licour
of laughter & of talk.
Take it in slow sips
to calibrate the day
& its weariness.

From coolness of chapeled cove
Cuthbert motions toward the boat.

The amber whisper inside
the throat dissolves to smoke.
Who opens now all waters,
rising brightly, above all loss.


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Meredith Quartermain

Tulip Glass

for Ric Caddel

                       a good crop of free construction
pelletised farmers
           now soft-drink
                     equipped with modernity
                                 now keep your wits as
produit de tête
                                as rectified liquid        gunpowder
                           or poof           a shot of organism

                                                                        soluble animal
the art of nosing
which is heated           neglected         squalidity

                        a little bluing to divert the spirit
                                                   stir the pot still
                                                   hear the work
                        writing in the dark     beets, but rarely
             the bub of culture
                        what is meant
                        for a fiver including type
sautchoo arrack Aristotle
                                    bearing subjects
             the great repute of production
locking the spirit pipe
                        larking about
             wooden backs pitched as a rule
to smoky difference
                   bouquet of instance and apparatus

                        The worm is gradual, will nose it again
             which the malted unhalt
             a smart metaphysical doing – crisp as toast
                        drifts through the opium          audible in chunks
trying getting into     possible work               wire mesh      ducks premise
             let’s call it triangulation         or humid doubt
                        having access to spirit
             spread out to germinate
                                         seams which lead from the craggy outcrops
                        the same way plain peat-reek’s old cheddar
                                                             the birds settle and most nights
the stars

                     You out there in the dinghy
                                               how big is the room
             for     Japan                Estonia      Poland

                      Blimey                                  the possible mashed
             a case of production
               soured to irregular sugar
                                 and man, a natural fuel cut from
                       too much of the burr off
                              yet poets carp on
                              that the grain is sound

rootlets or rootless, the ground
            flowers when you read

                         Now make ferment a spirit safe
                                                 the stillman measures                 with husk
                                                                   and friability
                                    the firmament
a bellows                     for the tricky old world
             of excise cattle and bond sales
                                             forced with fortune

                                                 he will nose them
                                                        lose them – a swan-necked kettle

                              he will bathe in the worm-tub             music –
                   oloroso, fino, amontillado – the only school
                                                    pitching with cooling
                                                    painting the pipes
a batch of starchy operations
           which each bears
in grain

                                  Oh pshaw
                      what foreshots and feints  for wind life
             what cane-rind pumped from a blurting trumpeter
what copper crudesome
             you’re on your own, angels
                                          grist of the mash scheme
check the fire jacket
           for time’s no molasses
when your pulpit-craft’s           clarinet marmalade

                                       Farewell, as it were, faffing around
           you vessels, vats and washbacks
               foodstuffs for industry

whiskies will fight
                    the word legally
                                   Here’s to a lengthy steep
            as burnt pot-ale
skimmings                 dunder
                distillate know-how
                                        plowed in
            Here’s to St. Patrick
                                 punters     wash-wise
                                                    saccharine for radical
            pass up the neck of character

Here’s to the masterwerk’s dominant yeast
the trade in soil or climate lines
                        the smoke and scratchmarks
of patchy edges

                                  heads to the still
            let’s call it a nose for sailing

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Carl Rakosi

In Memory of Richard Caddel,

                                           most quintessential of poets

Death,   have you
no meaning?

is meaning foreign
to the universe?

a mere construct
as in mathematics?

Oh, Death, is this
thy nocturne?

No word from God.

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Tom Raworth

The spaghetti tree (for Ric)

april the first


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Peter Riley

Tonight I listened to Berlioz’ La Morte d’Ophélie in memory of Ric Caddel who died yesterday. I listened to all three recordings I’ve got: choir and piano, choir and orchestra, solo and orchestra. And I thought that the little four-note motif that Berlioz devised, repeated again and again at the top of the texture, representing Ophelia’s song as she... You remember, she floats downstream singing, supported by her billowing robes. I thought this motif was very like the one Nino Rota supplied for the trumpet in La Strada, though I haven’t seen the film for many years. If I remember rightly, it was all she could play, the little, pathetic, impaired girl who died... She was dumped in some seaside town and someone looked after her for a while and she spent most of her time sitting outside playing this motif over and over again, and then she just died, of nothing, she just floated away because she couldn’t stand the fact of cruelty, its being in the world. And he thought he heard it, didn’t he, in the distance after she’d gone he was drunk and knocking over oil cans in rage and ended up sitting on the shore at night sobbing, and that little motif on the trumpet was . . . not heard, but it was there. Her robes became heavy, steeped in water, and that which had supported her dragged her under.

I hung these two deaths on the wall under a Hungarian icon of the Angel of the Annunciation, in memory of Ric Cadell, who died yesterday morning. But knew all about death, long before that. How it makes us see with our hearing. And our hearts remain: ‘magnificent pointers / out of galaxies.’

Journal extract / 2nd April 2003

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John Seed

From Ric Caddel’s Back Kitchen Window

Mile after mile the wet roads the weak light
Empty streets
In plenitude of nature
In freezing rain in silence that
Familiar place
Dark hills huge clouds blank
Stone on these slopes the same
End from any source

A thousand stratagems

Vanishing into the air




[First published in John Seed, History Labour Night. Fire & Sleet & Candlelight, Pig Press, Durham 1984]

Ric was uneasy about the title of this poem I remember. He wouldn’t come out and say so directly, of course. But I could sense some reserve. The fact was, that from the back of Cross View Terrace you could see a mile or so across to Langley Moor, a pit village where my grandfather was a pitman for most of his life and where I spent a good deal of time as a child. Ric and I walked down that long steep hill a couple of times but we never got as far as Langley Moor. A pub always intervened. By 1981, when I drafted this poem, Ralph Seed had been dead for a decade. And the world of my childhood seemed long gone. So it was a poem about death and about the disappearance of the past (and of the poet). And it was evoked by that particular wintry landscape on an actual January day when I looked out of that particular window. I also liked the several connotations of the name ‘Cross View’. Now the death of Ric, who I knew for 30 years, forces me to read this poem in a different way. The words on the page are the same. But it is now a different poem.

London 23 April 2003

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Gavin Selerie

Ric was born four days before me in the year that Geoffrey Grigson’s Poems of John Clare’s Madness was published. We once talked about Edward Bond’s The Fool, which I had seen at the Royal Court. Beyond this we shared an interest in Byrd and Bartók. (I could number on the fingers of one hand the people who have sat through Bartók’s string quartets with me without asking for the plug to be pulled.) Ric was to have been a collaborator on Days of ’49, but when Alan Halsey and I were some way into the project Ric sent me a card saying, ‘When you get to my age, you know, your brain seizes.’ He was devoting himself to other, significant writing, and no doubt made the right decision. Alan and I were, nevertheless, amused by this assessment of memory possibilities from the first six months of a life. The card portrayed Basil Bunting and his father in 1916, (coincidentally) the year that both my parents were born. I offer this poem as a marker of my sense of loss but also as a tribute to the work, both creative and editorial, which endures. Without wishing to privilege generation above generation, I would argue that there is a specific historical and social thread which makes Ric Caddel the editor of Basil Bunting and the author of Rigmaroles and ‘Wyatt’s Dream’.

Forty-nine comes Clare

Gleams, a dragon eye
     over the border

lozenge against bar

like a canon taken up
     by darker strings

lend your ears, a psalter
     fool goes out

who knew birds inter-
     laced in columns

where water winds
     about stone

browning a tune
     part to part

this is the sack
     on the shoulder

that would conjure
     a kingdom

as the library hums
     be green her leaves

don’t ramraid the tome
     ‘s motley

they would annex
     your very cells

where the compass face
     is a clock

a shaft broken
     away from day

forgotten of the foot
     that passes

letter into letter
     north pressing

will deal the card
     yields sweetness

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Aidan Semmens

I knew Ric for almost 25 years, long enough to have babysat Tom and Lucy.
      He was the last print publisher of my poetry when he put out a pamphlet of mine under his Pig Press imprint in 1987, and without his enthusiastic encouragement I would probably not have continued with my return to writing a year or so ago. It is a minor point, of course, but I feel cheated that he will not be around to see my return to print in the new issue of Shearsman.
      Even at a distance, and with long gaps between meetings, Ric was a quiet, calm, wise influence, not just on my writing, but on my life. His whetstone intelligence helped keep me sharp, yet was always carried humbly. Accusations that some levelled at him of arrogance seemed to me incomprehensible.
      His poetics was the most lucid and fundamentally sensible I have encountered; his ‘difficulty’ as a poet simply a natural aspect of life’s difficulty, not in any sense an adopted pose, as is too often the case in others.
      His response, both in private and in print, to the tragic death of Tom was quite stunning in its directness and its honesty. Personal knowledge may perhaps colour my response, but I have never read a more affecting elegy than For The Fallen. Characteristically, Ric spared himself nothing in the writing or publishing of a piece that is both savagely honest and unflinching good art.
      With Ric there was no division between the poet and the man. He was so warm, generous and honest as a friend that before the collection of his work in Magpie Words last year I had somehow managed not to notice that he had quietly become one of the two or three finest English poets of our times. His voice is unique and will continue to sing.
      I don’t think Ric ever knew how important or how remarkable he was. That was part of his importance and remarkableness. I will miss him hugely.


For the destroyer shall come suddenly upon us

that which is manifest begins
with the seed of itself

blurred stirrings
of whatever is new

hard black buds of ash
embers of haw

osier incipient

we weep
on bairns’ bones
    in our own decay

a desert harvest

toxic growth

a language


Upon the death of John Barleycorn

work with
the grain

for children’s gaming

church adrift
on fen mist

warmed by candles’
dying fall

oaken buds
excise old leaves

carve the loaf
taste the new word

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Robert Sheppard

(haiku for piano

to the memory of Ric Caddel, d. 1 April 2003

bird song pecked to staves:
trembling blaze of window’s ice
                  tarted up whispers:

the world’s absorption
softens      scratch across paper’s
penetrating glow

noised out of mind-shreds
gravity’s hammer loosens —
three bars of silence

brittle leaves of man-
uscript. ‘Play their repertoire
of inhuman jokes


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Peterjon Skelt


Peterjon Skelt, Collage

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Pete Smith

I never met Ric and know a pitifully small amount of his poetry.  I do want to offer something though.  When I was seeking a home, if you will, in poetry I stumbled into the British & Irish Poetry List.  Ric’s back-channel personal encouragements & his gentle chastisements of the list when it would episodically become unruly were reasons to stay there & be in community. On a one-hour radio program I do at the local community college I recently read ‘After Numerology’ & extracts from parts 1 & 2 & the whole of part 3 of ‘For the Fallen’.   Lovely work.  I filled the remainder of the program with poems by ‘Pig Press poets’ from my shelves —  Guy Birchard, Roy Fisher, Lorine Niedecker, John Riley, George Evans, Tony Baker.  That (very partial) list tells its own tale. I’m sending a necessarily brief poem for the occasion.

What in the world we see

The wind of that coast sculpts
   those westering trees.
The Cheviot-cropped Cheviots
   nor-west of him always —
briefly, thirty years ago, I knew
   the embrace of their airs.
It is not necessary to have known
   the man to know his measure
& trace

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Jüri Talvet

Building chairs is science

                      To the memory of dear
                           Richard Caddel, friend and poet,
                           with the hope that he could return
                           tomorrow at ten.                  

Did the rabbit taste good? Fine.
The salmon? Well. The world’s
pulse under your eyelids is indeed
a fine image. (At least you can
feign sleep). The noble union
of physics with poetry: It’s fine
that one can at least relax
into the groove of a bar stool in a
warm small town in Georgia. (If
there’s room). In both Delhis, however,
when it grows dark, only thinking
of gods in a temple, with a cool stone
in the knees, redeems one from the jungle.
Did what’s on the grill taste good? I’m glad. I
am happy. How was the chicken? I weave
a spider web for some stranger to get
caught in. Some other from far away,
on the edge. Some Indian cow,
covered with Hegel’s grey, boiled
spider web. (Thank you, Heinrich!)
You say you really won’t go? You
shall go tomorrow morning at ten.
And you will return tomorrow
morning at ten. Won’t you?

Translated from Estonian
by the author and R. W. Stedingh

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Harriet Tarlo

title necessary?

— for Ric

just April                                           make opening more
                                                  natural, simpler

                                   thin moon in
                                   high window over
                                            her white cot

clearing winter debris
today               thistlestick
                              white out stalks
mould’s greenwet

                                  grass opening
                                                out, drying to
nice use of space

                       leaf leaf thru leaf

            pile of old to discard
but she’s just one
and all over
it all                                         magpie –– finding

                       it’s new in her month, her mouth
                       earth     apple     crock
                       leaf    and    biscuit
                                                                  take the last 12 lines ... and
                                                                  concentrate on/start from
                                                       there ––

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Paul Taylor

Remembering Ric Caddel

In the autumn of 1988 I was feeling depressed. There were a number of reasons; one being that I had just read Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion’s Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry. This was, I thought at the time, a representative sample of the national poetic effort, and it was clear to me that, on average, it was gutless, insincere, facetious, uninventive and dreary.  
      No reason why I should have been depressed — I’m not a poet myself, and there are plenty of dead poets to read — but for some reason it got under my skin. I started scouring the poetry sections of book shops in the hope of finding at least some good poets. Before too long I was lucky: I put my hand on a copy of the Paladin anthology, New British Poetry. This proclaimed itself to be an antidote to Morrison and Motion, so I went to the cash till and paid.
      That was certainly the best consumer decision of my life. I’d only heard of one of the poets — Linton Kwesi Johnson — but I was soon hunting for books by Tom Leonard, Tony Baker, Lee Harwood, Denise Riley, Tom Raworth, James Berry, Bob Cobbing, Grace Nichols, Roy Fisher . . . The islands were full of good poetry, and it had been hidden from view by a genuine conspiracy.
      Of all these poets I’d never heard of, my favourite was Richard Caddel. I had the impression from the way he was described in Ken Edwards’ introduction that he wasn’t thought to be one of the leading figures, but that didn’t alter my response. His poetry had a purity of rhythm and a coherence of personal imagery that made it speak. Many of the other poets in the book were more inventive and took greater risks with language, but none had so clear and human a voice. When I came across copies of Sweet Cicely and Uncertain Time in Dillon’s, of all places, I immediately bought them, treasured them, and memorised large chunks of them. ‘What of memory/ a film not wound on properly/ cold daylight...’ I recited that poem to myself most days, and I always smiled when I did.
      Once the internet was up and running I got into the habit of feeding ‘Richard Caddel’ into search engines, in the hope that he would publish another book. And eventually, in 1998, there it was: an announcement, by RC himself, that he’d recently published a new collection, Larksong Signal. All I had to do now was find a copy. I spent the evening after work using what bibliographic skills I had, but without success. So eventually I plucked up courage and wrote an e-mail to the author. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Mr Caddel,

I’ve just found the note you left at last year, mentioning your latest poetry collection, ‘Larksong signal’. I haven’t seen this in any bookstores in London, but would very much like to buy a copy. I note from the Durham University library catalogue that it’s published by Shearsman Books in Plymouth, but neither the Web nor directory enquiries have been much help in tracking this company down. If you could help in any way I would be very grateful.
      Your poetry has given me a huge amount of pleasure over the years. I got married last month, and we had that section from ‘Sweet Cicely’ which begins ‘All/the little things’ as a reading. ‘From Wreay Churchyard’ would certainly be no. 1 in a ten-year hit parade of poems recited inside my head. So many thanks, for all the hours I’ve spent chanting your words happily to myself.
      Best wishes from cyberspace,
            Paul Taylor

And you can imagine my pleasure the next morning, to find this reply in my inbox:

Dear Paul, Blimey, that’s just the sort of e-mail one needs midweek in February (or any other time). Thanks. Shearsman is at 47 Dayton Close, Plymouth PL6 5DX, and Larksong Signal will set you back 6.95. And I hope you enjot it! Thanks,
      Richard Caddel

Shortly afterwards:

enjot? that too, of course, but mainly enjoy... Thanks again for your generous response — RC

A couple of weeks later Ric told me that he was going to be in London on business, and he suggested we meet for a drink. I wasn’t going to say no, and so found myself nervously walking into the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, looking round for someone ‘short (around 5’6’) round and bespectacled’. There was only one contender, and he gravely lifted his pint when he saw me scanning the room.
      I wasn’t far down my first beer when I decided he was probably the most companionable man I’d ever met. Any worries I’d had that he might want to hear his praises sung were swiftly allayed. His main interest seemed to be conversation. But unlike most people who have a passionate interest in talking he wasn’t very interested in telling me his opinion about anything — unless I wanted to know, of course. And he was interested in my opinion only in so far as it fitted into the quiet, living flow of what was being said. Rather than an exchange of thoughts between egos, it was like drifting idly along in a warm stream of talk. He didn’t try to impress me, I didn’t try to impress him. We just chatted comfortably, as if we’d known one another for half a lifetime. This was a revelation to me; up to that point most of the enjoyable conversations I’d taken part in had been friendly occasions for showing off.
      I remember two things he said very well.

‘I’m glad you wrote when you did, Paul.’
‘Oh, and why was that Ric?’
‘I felt...  I felt I needed a reader.’

Since I knew Robert Creeley and Eric Mottram were admiring readers of his work it wasn’t clear to me why he needed my vote too, but it was a deft way of making me feel appreciated.
      The other remark came when I asked him a question about the following poem from the ‘LIII songs’ in Uncertain Time:

Gatekeeper, arrowhead
sickener.  Burrow
distributor head.

Cheddar, limestone, mare incognitum.
Tony and Liz, clustered
osiers and
fool’s parsley.

‘So what’s going on here, Ric? Why is it that some of your lines work so well? ‘Cheddar, limestone, mare incognitum.’  Always pleases me to hear those words, and I have no idea why.’
      ‘Well, I’m glad you like that line, because the poem they come from is one of my favourites. — I don’t know if you’d noticed, but it’s the only one of that sequence not to have a title.’
      ‘What, in the LIII songs? No, I hadn’t noticed.’
      ‘Well, it is. It did have a title, originally, but I decided it was too much, and crossed it out.’
      ‘Oh? And what was the title?’
      ‘The Names of God.’

This was one of the longest conversations we ever had on poetics. It was typical of Ric not to answer directly; often his answers made you realise that you hadn’t asked the right question in the first place. And I should add, in case anyone starts writing him down as a nature mystic, that Ric was agnostic about agnosticism: one of the aspects of George Herbert’s poetry he most admired was its ‘open mind to uncertainty’.

‘My vision for political, cultural and religious security of the realm consists of a mayday rally where everyone shouts WE’RE - NOT - SURE! WE’RE - NOT -SURE! Whadowe want? UNRESOLVEDNESS Whendowewantit? NOW! etc...’

After our first meeting it was nearly a year before I saw Ric again, but we glued together the space with e-mail. For Christmas that year my wife Mariana had frames made for some poems Ric had given me in the Lamb and Flag, so when in January of 1999 he came to stay with us, he found a flat in which he was a celebrity — which clearly unnerved him. Much as he liked having someone who admired his poetry, he was suspicious of praise; not I think because he thought it was insincere or misguided (although he never had as high an opinion of his work as I did) but because he didn’t want praise to lure him away from his own path through life: ‘riches that blind/ my eyes to riches.’ Ric soon got tired of hearing his virtues sung. Not that he got snappy about it; he just deflected praise with gentle wit and rolled onto another topic. His thankyou e-mail on that occasion gives an idea of the method:

‘A quick note to thank you and Mariana for your hospitality, your kindness, your talent for yeast and your ego-inflating habit of quoting my work. Ann says it took her a weekend of solid ignorance to get my ego back to normal size. If I was a real poet I’d write you a praise poem.’

When he visited us that time Ric already knew that he had leukaemia. Not that he mentioned it; but a few months later he had to cancel a visit to London because he was scheduled for chemotherapy, and told us why. If he was bitter about it I never saw the bitterness; he dealt with cancer as he dealt with praise:

‘- sorry, thot I mentioned this when I wuz down earlier in the year - it’s a mild version. I’d hoped not to have to treat for some years, but, shit happens as they say. The treatment too is mild, inasmuchas chemotherapy can be mild, and reckoned to provide good remission prospects. But it won’t leave me alone, no. It stays for the rest of my hopefully long and productive life, like one of those old duchesses who live in the upper apartments of royal palaces and set fire to the curtains from time to time. Noblesse oblige, y’kna.’

Some people, when they’re told they have terminal illnesses, start planning for after life: writing memoirs, completing their life’s work, sorting through their photo albums or whatever. Others think about anything other than death, and try to postpone the end in a feverish round of ever less plausible therapies. Ric’s response was a bit of both, and neither; he embarked on a poetic project, Writing in the Dark, which would he knew only be ended by death itself. And although he tried to postpone his last day with a succession of (plausible) treatments, he also looked death straight in the eye and calmly meditated on the passing of life. Indeed, he expressed gratitude that he had been given the chance to think closely about his own death, and to treasure each day as it passed.

‘So it’s not so much the number of days, but the ‘live each day as if ‘twere [more-or-less] thy last’ feeling which preoccupies me. And I find that quite fun, not a dismal thing to do.’

Ric knew how to live in the present. In the last years of his life he enjoyed dawn, sunset, cheese and whisky, just as he had in the decades before leukaemia. If anything, the approach of death gave the malt an added savour.
      Ric was someone you learned from, even though he never did any teaching or gave any advice. But he didn’t in any way see himself as a guru, and would have laughed the idea off if anyone had suggested it to him. That attitude was, of course, part of the gurudom. One of his best lessons was that it is possible not to be pompous. His sense of humour was his best defence; though it didn’t deflate pomposity so much as change the subject, so pomposity couldn’t get its nose in. The main reason Ric was such fun to be with and write to is that he had a deep store of affectionate, unacerbic wit. I once asked him how puffins and sea otters got along on the Farne Islands, and was told:

‘- well, otters still tend to play the traditional long-passing game, using a 4-4-2 formation and relying a lot on their extra height to score when they’re in the box. There are big questionmarks over their defence, where they’re thought to be vulnerable to set pieces and good crosses. Puffins, on the other hand, can’t play football at all because they’re the wrong shape. So the only way they meet is to party, or by going to the pub on a Friday night, where they all get along famously so long as no-one pulls the old gag about ‘what do you mean by giving my puffin shorts’, or mentions fish.’

He had a good fund of acerbic wit too, e.g. a response to my suggestion that some of D.H. Lawrence’s poetry was ‘iffy’:

‘- not ‘iffy’, the word you seek is ‘crap’. It’s my belief that the teaching of DHL’s naycher poetry (invoked as ‘good observation’ tho no naturalist will endorse this view) is at least partly responsible for the notion that ‘free verse’ is (a) free or (b) worthy of emulation...
      ‘I’m a fan of DHL’s travel writing. Instant, glowing, travelshop prose, here’s what I see through my eyes NOW. Lining it out oddly doesn’t make it po-e-try, even if there’s a mag in chicago pays a $ per line for it. I could say ‘underachieving’, I could say ‘lacking in rhythmic integrity’, can we take ‘crap’ as shorthand for those?’

He did however point out, wryly, that his most consistent and generous champion, Bob Creeley, was also an admirer of D. H. Lawrence’s poetry.
      It was only in the last twelve months of his life that Ric’s work began to receive some of the tribute it deserves; in quick succession, he was awarded three literary prizes. The money was welcome, but the gifts made him feel guilty:

‘After years of scoffing at the mealymouthed tossers who get literary dough I’m having to re-adjust...’

One of the aspects of receiving prizes that Ric disliked most, I think, was that it threatened to compromise his obscurity. In the wonderful conversations with Tony Flowers recorded in Quiet Music of Words he outlined the advantages of a ‘self-selected rugged independence’:

‘The ability to develop your work in your own way, at your own pace, without unwanted interference. The distractions of daily life, family, job, world are generally very welcome to me, recognised as part of the process — but the commercial or pseudo-critical faffing around is not: at best irritating, at worst counterproductive.’

Ric wanted approval for his work, for the work’s sake; he wasn’t an amateur or a dilettante. At the same time, he knew that fame wouldn’t make a pleasant difference to the day-to-day living that mattered most to him.

‘moving (lunchtime)
out of the realm of
false, muddled argument
into that contact
with the world in which
(for which)
I live —’

Ric was unusual among the alternative poets he considered his peers in the extent to which he built his poetry out of his ‘contact with the world’. Even when he was at his most abstract, in For the Fallen or the opening sections of Underwriter, he was using broken language as a means of mourning the death of his son Tom:

‘passage creature painting
bent feet alive stops your
wet starsight forever’

And in his last poems there is always a personal voice, even if the thoughts are hard to follow — the difficulty seems to catch the bewilderment of leaving life behind:

‘World made small, a
temple garden or
ice bag on cheek bone.
In radio chase night

we are one, alone. Our
needs, our
loves. Stumble away
from it. Be

yourself. Breathe easy
under star music.
What you believe
is true.’

His family and friends have at least this consolation: that his poetry preserves so much of his voice. I hope that, as time passes — since ‘the intention, as ever, is to share pleasure’ — many more readers will gather to hear him speak.

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Lawrence Upton

Of Ric Caddel

Checking my email after an absence, I found spam fizzing and bubbling in the e-pipe; the various net communities to which I belong busy; and one subject line, which became many examples of itself, as many blights are visible once one has seen the first, much the same from many listservs, the same words rising up the screen like a river flooding: Ric Caddel is dead.
      I slouched to the almost empty harbour. I found an isolated space and sat down. I stared at the low-tide.
      It isn’t that it was unexpected; but he bore his illness so well I thought he had a lot longer.
      He was highly and widely intelligent. He was perceptive and rational, delicately and disarmingly humorous. He seemed mild, yet was resilient and resistant. He cared very much for his family andhis communities. He was generous. He was courteous. What he brought to an exchange, formal or casual, was thoughtful and considerate.
      So many owe so much to him; and I among them. As listowner of British and Irish Poets List, he redefined ‘tact’. He brought us together. We all owe him for that, the founding of the list and the exemplary manner in which he ran it. And we owe him for his co-editing, with Peter Quartermain, of the anthology Other. But these are relatively recent gifts.
      I haven’t any of his books with me, so I shall make only a few generalisations of his poetry: I value it greatly - for its music; for its modernist propulsion; for its awareness of other poetries - it gets collectively better, I think, as the poet learns, though it always was very good; for its acumen and seriousness.
      I have learned a lot about Poetry from reading Ric’s; and, from the person, unawares, I picked up something of being among others, decently and with due but not excessive reticence. The more I knew of him, the greater my respect.
      By some measures, I hardly knew him; and he wasn’t the sort to smother you with personal information; but I am sure of my judgement.
      Years ago, I submitted a typescript to Ric as publisher, not realising that Pig Press had been closed - and we all owe him for Pig Press, too - which brought back an encouraging and unstinting letter, softening the necessary rejection.
      He took the time to write to me in such a way that I felt betterfor it even though he was rejecting the submission. That’s how he seems to have approached all of us.
      No one could have attained anything like For the fallen starting from the circumstances; and I remain almost over-awed by that achievement. There’s a lustre to it, a strong imagination, an inexhaustibility; and we all have that now despite what has happened to the brain which thought it.
      I’m writing this into a notebook, looking down on a stretch of wet sands, merging with distant sea, a little like those near the beginning of Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death.
      I’m sheltering up in the extensive towans. On the swamping sands, only my footsteps are being washed away. The wind is too cold for sane people. The Hayle River slides towards the sea; and, beyond that, more sands.
      Behind me, in a large earthworm s, the wreckage of industry, abandoned factories and cracking docks; and, occasionally, unspeaking people busy furtively near small fires.
      I used to go to Kent with my father when I was a child, the industrial bits where he made part of our living. I looked down through the holes in the floor of the lorry to and through the holes in the bridge connecting the main to the Isle of Sheppey and so through to the flowing river... And here I am now, thinking of Kentish Ric Caddel.
      It’d be easy to get sentimental about life and death in front of a forceful tide, in the midst of sands which have been burying the drudgery of humans for millennia. The transience of human life is a slippery diversion when one is in mourning.
      Brewing gush does not please me, nor Ric I should imagine... I have come here to be sure to be alone, to write this, to deal if I can with my grief. I’ve come here because, even on a dull day, it is impressive, including the metal and concrete litter which selfish entrepreneurs have left.
      Beauty’s a dangerous word to use. It’s a signal best avoided much of the time: not to abolish the idea, as if one could, but so that we have a clear one in good condition when it’s needed. Better to not always speak of beauty even when in front of it.
      Making beauty is a matter of balance; and perceiving beauty is a matter of testing. The naming is a later option.
      Balance, Ric certainly had balance, in his dealings with other people, in his editing, in his response to adversity, in his poetry-making. And when I think on all of that, and on a person I wish I had known better, I think I know enough to risk the use of a dangerous word to make due acclaim.
      We have lost a beautiful person and a maker of beautiful poetry.

— Wednesday, 09 April 2003, West Penwith

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Scott Watson

Ghost dance

— for Ric Caddel

hawk ox-tongue, narrow-leaf vetch,
red and least hope clover,
chickweed daisy.  fleabane.

to tread through to never get over.
to go into to never come out.
to not get the message our lives
incessantly speak.

[Written in response to Ric’s ‘Ghost Dance,’ which he read to us in Japan in the autumn of 2000, and then published in No Vision Will Tell: 100 Selected Poems 1992-2002 (Sendai: Bookgirl Press, 2002), with the dedication.]

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Bibliographic Note

Richard Caddel’s principal works are:

Sweet Cicely: New and Selected Poems. Durham: Taxus Press, 1983.

Uncertain Time. Newcastle upon Tyne: Galloping Dog, 1990.

Larksong Signal. Plymouth: Shearsman, 1997.

For The Fallen: A Reading of Y Gododdin. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wild Honey, 2000.

Magpie Words: Selected Poems 1970–2000. Sheffield: West House Books, 2002.

He also edited:

Basil Bunting. Uncollected Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Basil Bunting. Complete Poems.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993; reprinted, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 2000 .


with David Annwn, in Prospect Into Breath: Interviews with North and South Writers, edited by Peterjon Skelt. Twickenham and Wakefield: North & South, 1991.

with Tony Flowers. Quiet Music of Words. Conversations with Tony Flowers. Sheffield: West House, 2002.


with Lee Harwood. Wine Tales: Un Roman Devin, Newcastle upon Tyne: Galloping Dog, 1984.

with  Tony Baker. Monksnailsongs. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wild Honey, 2002.

Harry Gilonis remarked, in an early draft of his Independent Obituary:

Magpie Words closes with ‘Writing in the Dark’, a consciously unfinished sequence that Caddel said he would continue at ‘until the end’. The title, so sombre-sounding, in fact refers literally to his writing on a backlit personal organiser while sitting outdoors in the dark. Ann appears therein, as throughout: ‘Your voice in this room / has been with me // all I want to remember of / waking.’ The book doesn’t end thus, but in a way Richard Caddel’s life did: ‘Snuff this / dark varnish liquid, life. We / love it. Let it go.’

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Peter Quartermain

Closing note

It’s less than a month since Ric Caddel died, and I couldn’t have drawn together so many tributes to him without a lot of help — names and addresses, photographs, reviews, specific and general advice — especially from Tony Baker, Ann Caddel, Harry Gilonis, and Meredith Quartermain, and I thank them as I thank John Tranter for asking me to do this. I also thank, of course, not only those whose work is gathered here, but those, too, who sometimes in moving letters and brief notes explained that they could not, simply could not. ‘I find it impossible to write a poem,’ Maurice Scully wrote. ‘Ric would understand I think, I hope. He knew there was a weed called Dishonesty, & a flower called Grief. A climber.’ And he would in any case, as one after another reminded me, have viewed with considerable unease the sort of fuss, both public and private, that this gathering is.
      Yet the simple fact that over forty-five people came through (and I couldn’t reach everybody I wanted to), from all over the place — the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, as well as Britain, Canada, Ireland, and the United States — says something, as does the fact that they managed to get into my hands, in less than three weeks, a collection of work that is, taken as a whole, both deeply moving and, let’s face it, quite inspiring. Ric stirred immense affection and love — he accepted you and what you did, that unquestioning but interested acceptance a liberation — is how he made you feel, but no he didn’t suffer fools gladly, he loathed civil servants and politicians, walked away, he contemned dishonesty. The words of his poems come out of silence, but it’s not an emptiness, a vacancy, it’s the silence of listening and looking, music always in there somewhere, heard but not heard, attending the world, its complex pleasures and instructiveness. That wonderful paragraph about thrushes and snails that Tony Baker quotes in the Memoir he wrote for Bill Griffiths’ Northern Review. The tape he sent me of Billy Pigg, along with a brief discourse on  Northumbrian pipes, and what pubs and halls to hear them played. All those poets whose work I did not know.  Those walks he told me to take, those months I was stuck in Collingwood College in early 1990, and where the pubs were. There’s always the pub, yes.
      So what a gift, the middle of March this year, for Meredith and me to get to Durham to see Ric and Ann, drink a little scotch, look at some books, talk about works before us, maybe hear some music. We knew he was ill with leukemia, of course, but we’d had positively to not cajole or beg but instruct and order him to tell us how he was — ‘Waiting to see’ or ‘Coming along nicely.’ Otherwise, silence on that score, or massive understatement, the shrug of wit. Never a breath of complaint. There’s a gap now, in the world, in my head, whatever, where I turn to him and he is not there, out there in Durham so many miles away, but his presence is simply everywhere, quietly peristent. Damn, we miss him, but no, he’s somewhere around. An astonishing amaze, for the ragged heart, that odd mix of joy and grief — like those snails and thrushes, we’re on both sides at once.
      And what a privilege too, somewhere in all this, to be pulling all these other people’s  words into one spot, this necessary act for Ric. My thanks are heartfelt.

26 April 2003. Vancouver

Ric Caddel, Japanese seal
Ric Caddel

Ric’s Japanese seal

In Japanese, ‘R’ becomes ‘L’, and consonants are doubled with a vowel. ‘Ric Caddel’ thus becomes  in Japanese, Ri - Ka — Deru. This translates as:

        1) adj: sharp, favourable
         2) noun: advantage, benefit, profit, interest
         3) verb: do good to, benefit

         1) adj: calm, gentle, co-operative, harmonious
         2) verb: join in the singing, compose a poem in reply to another with some rhyme sequence

         1) verb: shine, illuminate, light up

Ann Caddel says Ric’s meaning was 1) lead kindly light; 2) clear light song;  etc.;  Tony Flowers has it as 3) clear song enlightens. ‘It’s a bit like reading horoscopes or Tarot,’ she adds.

Ric Caddel, accepting Japanese seal

When Ric and Ann visited Japan in October–November 2000, Ric expressed an interest in Japanese seals. Professor Akira Yasukawa, who as head of the Institute of Oriental and Occidental Studies at Kansai University invited Ric to Japan, had a seal specially cut for him. At the buffet meal following Ric's lecture on 15 November, Akira presented the seal to him.

[Photograph, left, Ric Caddell and Professor Akira Yasukawa, by Ann Caddel.]

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